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Lawmakers: Letting young Wyomingites hunt can help put more meat in the freezer

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Bob Pepalis | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Two proposed bills that enable younger Wyomingites to hunt, including those with terminal illnesses, have the support of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation (WWF).

House Bill 115 (HB115) would allow 11-year-olds to hunt if they turn 12 within the calendar year. House Bill 84 (HB84), the Naomi Hunting Age Exemption Act, would allow the state’s Game and Fish Commission to waive the age restriction for children who are suffering from a terminal illness. The House Travel Committee has recommended both bills pass.

The girl for whom HB84 is named was gifted a big game hunt by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but she was denied the opportunity because of her age.

“This is just trying to give the Game and Fish Commission the authority to let them let a terminally ill kid go hunting before they're 12,” Jaden Bales, director of Communications for the WWF, told The Center Square.

Looking at how much hunting and fishing is ingrained within the communities around the state, these bills look toward including the next generation, keeping it as a big family affair, Bales said. It’s a good way to integrate more kids each year into hunting with an early start.

Hunting is more than recreation for Wyoming families.

“When we're looking at how many blue-collar families right now are without one or both parents working, this wild game, you definitely could make a difference by getting your kid out there a year earlier,” Bales said. “It totally could mean the difference between one deer in the household or two or the difference between two and three, which that is a lot of freezer space.”

Hunting can make a difference on someone’s pocketbook if they live close to these hunting opportunities, he stated. It is especially true when looking at whitetail opportunities between Sheridan and Casper, and along the northeast corner of Wyoming.

“They’re great opportunities to get kids out and exposed and part of this whole meat acquisition,” Bales said.

The WWF would like to see one change to the Naomi Hunting Age Exemption Act, however. They want to make an amendment that takes the decision on what is a terminal illness out of the hands of the commissioners who are not health professionals, Bales said.